God's Reply to Cries of the Heart: Neland's Lenten Theme

The song “Hear the Cry of My Heart” was composed for a Lenten series at Neland; we wanted a song that would directly articulate the “cries” mentioned each week. I composed the verses around a particular meter. Leah Ivory came up with several compositions and we chose which melody we thought best expressed the mood of crying out to God.

Another aspect of the series that was particularly meaningful was the artwork done by college student Katie Daining and used as bulletin covers. Each week a new drawing depicted that particular cry of the heart. The cross and the resurrection of Christ come as God’s reply to our deepest needs and longings—“the cries of the heart.”

In our Lenten journey we focused on Old Testament writings that put these longings into words for us. They give us the words to ask the right questions, so that we can hear God’s reply at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, and in the garden on Easter morning.

Week 1

The journey began with the weary cry from Teacher of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity!” The wisest, richest, most powerful man in the world has seen it all and done everything there is to do “under the sun.” But he has found it all unsatisfying. And the cry of his heart resonates with us who live in an affluent and satiated culture. Our hunger is deeper, our thirst greater, and our soul more eternal than anything under the sun. Our emptiness cries out to God, who promises to satisfy and to give us life and work that is “not in vain.”

Week 2

The cry of sorrow comes from the book of weeping: Lamentations. The book is a funeral service for the death of an entire city. In the face of such enormous suffering and devastation, words fail us: “What can I say for you?” (2:13). The question arises of whether healing is even possible for wounds “as deep as the sea” (2:13). Suffering calls into question God’s goodness, God’s control, and God’s very presence. God’s Lenten reply to this cry of the heart is a cross, where we discover that in the middle of suffering—there is God.

Week 3

Israel utters the cry of abandonment as she faces God’s judgment against her sin. Sin disrupts and destroys the harmony of God’s good creation. Sin involves turning away from God and walking away from his presence or hiding from him in shame. In sin and its ravages we conclude: “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me” (Isa. 49:14). But the Lord hears our cry, and in his love he will not abandon his children (Isa. 49:15).

Week 4

The Song of Songs is a celebration of love and intimacy. Scripture often uses marriage as a metaphor when speaking of our capacity for intimacy with and love for God. The Bible is first of all a love story about God and humankind. God’s desire is for intimacy with us, and we were created to be in intimate relationship with him. Sin has crept in, and sin has made us hide. But the Lover has come looking for us (Song 3:1-5). And in that awesome love we discover that he finds us worth looking for!

Week 5

Habakkuk begins with a complaint against God. If we believe in a God who is both all-powerful and all-loving, then the injustice of this world is a huge problem. People who are passionate about God are also passionate about justice. And so the prophet cries out to God. God replies (2:2-4) that an answer will be coming at the appointed time. Injustice is there, but it is bound in time by God himself. Until that time, “the righteous will live by faith.” We see in the cross of Christ the ultimate example of such faith. Injustice seemed to have the last word—yet the Righteous One still committed himself to the hands of God in faith. And he was vindicated!

Week 6: Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday we looked at Israel’s cry for a leader (1 Sam. 8). Up to this point in Israel’s history, they have been content to be different from the nations around them. They have no king; their leader is God. But in 1 Samuel 8 Israel demands a leader. They have taken one more step on the path of mistrust—they no longer simply want the Lord as their source and rule for life. They want a king to fight their battles, a king to protect them and make them proud of who they are. On Palm Sunday God answers even this cry of the heart. He sends us not the leader we would choose, but most certainly the leader we desperately need—to fight and win our battles and to protect us from the enemy.

Good Friday and Easter

Having focused for six weeks on articulating the cries of the human heart, on Good Friday and on Easter morning we focus our hearts on the mighty works of God. Full of power and grace, they are his reply to our cries.

Reformed Worship 74 © December 2004, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.